Data scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology in Rajasthan analyzed thousands of recipes' ingredients to figure out exactly why samosas make our taste buds such happy campers. We'll spare you the geeky details behind the study -- check out the Washington Post's story for the nitty-gritty breakdown -- but, in a nutshell, the researchers discovered that Indian food tastes delish because it combines very different flavors that don't overlap.
In Western culture, most of our foods use ingredients that contain similar flavor compounds. But in India, as well as in many other Asian cuisines, the ingredients rarely share flavor compounds. When spices like cardamom, tamarind or cayenne are in a dish -- which is, like, every Indian dish ever -- the researchers found that the dish's ingredients had fewer overlapping flavors. Meanwhile, the foods we basically live on here in the U.S. like milk, butter and bread share many of the same flavor compounds.
I mean, being Indian and all, I'm obviously completely biased when I say Indian food is basically the best thing ever. Some people eat mac 'n' cheese for comfort food, but I nom on chicken tikka masala and wayyy too many pieces of naan. Seriously, I'm salivating just looking at this pic.
I grew up in the U.S., but both my parents immigrated here from Bangalore, a city in Southern India. This means I ate Indian food pretty much every single day until I turned 18 and moved away to college. I'm gonna be honest here, by that point I was sick of curries, masalas, rice -- any meal that I needed to eat yogurt with because otherwise, it was too spicy for my feeble tastebuds to handle. But as soon as a regular supply of Indian food left my life, I missed it. Boy, did I miss it. And that's how I ended up spending most of my money on Indian takeout. Oops.
The researchers wrote that with Indian food, "Each of the spices is uniquely placed in its recipe to shape the flavor sharing pattern with the rest of the ingredients."
Maybe this is why I get so angry every time I go to a new Indian restaurant and they serve me bland tikka masala with zero peppers or onions or whatever else they put in there that makes it so damn good. That unique interaction of distinct flavors is what makes Indian cuisine so satisfying.
This is also probably why Indian dishes have SO MANY ingredients. The Washington Post reports that the average Indian dish has seven ingredients, which may not seem like a lot, but trust me, seven feels like 100 when you try to cook anything remotely Indian from scratch. So now every time I call my mom and she asks me for the umpteenth time if I cook anything with spices in it, I'll use the excuse that there are simply too many ingredients. Hey, cut me some slack -- I've just barely learned how to use a rice cooker over here. Baby steps, right?
For now, I will continue my guilty pleasure of waking up early for brunch on weekends if and only if said brunch involves dosas.
Nom Naan on, foodies of the world.